How Tennessee Breed Laws Affect Your Dog Bite Injury Claim

pitbull running in a field

Dogs can be faithful, loving companions, but their instinct to protect us and themselves can sometimes cause them to attack others. Over 300,000 people nationwide are treated in emergency rooms for dog bites every year, most commonly children and young adults. Some people believe that certain breeds are naturally more aggressive than others, making them more likely to attack and, therefore, dangerous to the public.

However we may feel about certain breeds, the fact is that all dogs have hunting instincts and will occasionally bite humans. Since the 1980s, hundreds of cities have enacted breed-specific legislation (BSL) as part of their dog bite liability laws. If you or someone you love has been involved in a dog bite incident in Tennessee, it is worth investigating whether there is a breed-specific clause in the law.

Local Dog Breed Ordinances in Tennessee

State law requires all dogs in Tennessee to be kept under reasonable control and be prevented from running at large in public areas. It establishes liability in dog bite cases, but it does not target any particular dog breed. However, some towns and cities have passed breed-specific laws that ban the ownership of certain dog breeds or impose heavy restrictions to prevent these dogs from inflicting injury. These laws are almost always aimed at pit bulls but can include larger working breeds such as German shepherds and Rottweilers.

There are many different categories of breed-specific legislation, including:

  • Bans. The most restrictive BSL is a breed ban, which prohibits ownership, breeding, or reproduction of a specific dog breed, most commonly pit bulls. Most of these bans will allow owners to keep their existing pit bulls, but under heavy conditions to reduce the potential for injury. These bans may also take aim at reducing the presence of future pit bulls in the community by requiring existing animals to be sterilized. There are active pit bull bans in Dyer, Etowah, Henderson, Middleton, Morrison, South Pittsburg, Sparta, Jasper, Rogersville, Rutherford, Selmer, Somerville, and throughout Hardeman County.
  • Restrictions. Some cities allow pit bull ownership but place special restrictions on these dogs and their owners. In Mt. Juliet, for example, pit bulls are banned from dog parks. The Brownsville ordinance requires pit bulls to be micro-chipped, and owners must muzzle their pets when taking them for a walk.
  • Declarations. Some breed-specific laws automatically declare a breed to be "dangerous" or "vicious," issuing regulations for dog owners in order to prevent a first attack. Requirements vary but may include higher registration fees, microchipping, mandatory sterilization, muzzling in public places, additional liability insurance, secure fencing and kennel facilities, and displaying "Beware of Dangerous Dog" warning signs on the premises. Dangerous breed declarations are currently in force in Adamsville, Baileyton, Halls, Harriman, Hornbeak, Jefferson City, Kenton, Lafayette, Lookout Mountain, Madisonville, Madisonville, Manchester, Paris, Puryear, Red Boiling Springs, Ripley, and White Pine.
  • Special permits. Cities may require special permits to own certain types of dogs. South Fulton currently requires permits for pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, and German shepherds.

It is worth noting that the behavior of the dog reflects the way it has been treated or trained. For this reason, any fault for a dog bite incident lies squarely with the owner. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep pets under control and take reasonable actions to prevent injuries to others. That said, Tennessee dog bite law allows both strict liability and the more forgiving "one bite" policy—and it will take a dedicated and experienced attorney to prove that the owner is responsible for your injuries.

If someone else’s negligence caused your dog bite, we can get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries and help prevent a negligent owner from harming others in the future. Our injury lawyers can gather evidence on your behalf and advise you on your next steps, and we do not collect any payment from you until we secure a recovery. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up a free initial consultation.